MANCHESTER, N.H. —The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld two murder convictions Tuesday. One involved a New York Yankees fan who ran over a man outside a Nashua bar; the other, a man who supplied a gun used in a Manchester murder.
The Nashua conviction involved city-resident Ivonne Hernandez, who was convicted of second-degree murder for striking a man outside a Nashua bar in 2008 with her car. Murder victim Matthew Beaudoin and his friends had taunted her over the Yankees sticker on her car.
The Manchester conviction involved Michael Soto, who was convicted of first-degree murder after he wiped a gun with his T-shirt, cocked it and gave it to a friend who shot and killed Massachusetts resident Aaron Kar in 2007.
Both court rulings were unanimous.
Hernandez’ appeal focused on whether a police interview should be allowed into court when police initiate a question with “between you and me.”
The appeal also challenged whether an at-times delusional homeless witness should have been allowed to testify.
During her interrogation by Nashua police, Hernandez acknowledged her Miranda rights.
But at one point, Nashua police Detective James Testaverde said: “between you and me, and (Detective Joseph Molinari), OK, the three of us in this room, OK, inside, inside your heart … did you want to run that (sic) over?”
Hernandez’ lawyer said the statement should be thrown out because Hernandez relied on a promise of confidentiality.
In writing for the court, Justice Duggan said statements made under the promise of confidentiality are inadmissible, but the detective’s did not go that far.
He only made it once, and he never implied she would not be prosecuted for the crime, Duggan wrote.
“His statement hinted at confidentiality but did not explicitly promise it,” Duggan wrote.
“While we continue to discourage the police from using this type of language, and will continue to examine possible police promises of confidentiality closely, we conclude that in the narrow circumstances of this case, Testaverde’s use of the phrase ‘between you and me’ did not rise to the level of such a promise,” Duggan concluded.
Hernandez’ lawyer also challenged the decision to allow
Colleen Hake to testify at trial. Hake, a homeless woman, had been sleeping on City Hall steps when she witnessed an initial confrontation between Hernandez and several men.
During a competency hearing, Hake testified she did not know how many children she had, but she saw six babies taken out of the delivery room after she gave birth. She also said she believed her mother was abducted and replaced by an impostor.
But the trial court ruled that Hake was competent and understood her duty to tell the truth.
“Although the witness had mental health problems and some delusional beliefs, the presumption of competency is not rebutted merely because a witness may be mentally ill,” Duggan wrote.
The Soto case revolved around whether he should have been eligible for alternative convictions such as manslaughter or reckless second-degree murder.
For the manslaughter conviction, the jury would have had to decide that Soto acted under extreme mental anguish brought on by extreme provocation.
The court rejected that idea. Two hours after Soto learned that his friend, Roney White, had been beaten, he armed White’s relative in retaliation for the attack.
“A reasonable person would not remain in that extreme emotional state after driving to a different city, meeting with several friends to discuss how to retaliate, taking the time to smoke marijuana, and again driving to search for one’s provokers,” wrote Justice Lynn.
The court also refused to throw out a jailhouse conversation where Soto spoke about cocking the gun and giving it to the killer.